Marking the Resting Place with the Deceased


Mario Katić


In this paper I tried, on the basis of available literature and newly discovered data, to indicate possible links among the practices of mirila, karsikko, and cross-tree. Using these comparisons I endeavor to show that the custom of marking the place of resting with the deceased is not specific to a narrow strip of Croatian hinterland and that, if we want to get to important
insights about the custom of mirila, it will be necessary to expand the geographical context and focus of research. The term mirila in the literature involves the stone construction marking the resting place with the deceased. It’s usually on the way from the home of the deceased to the cemetery. The funeral procession would stop, carriers would lay down the deceased on
the ground for the first and last time before the cemetery. In Finland there was a custom known as karsikko which roughly means “pruning of the tree”, but also denotes memorial inscriptions features on board, on building walls or on rocks (Vilkuna 1993:136). The funeral procession from the house of the deceased to the cemetery stoped at a certain place which is already
used for the same purpose, and people would select a tree and carve a cross, the initials of the deceased, year of death, etc., or write the same data on the board which would then be attached on the tree. Karsikko as a memorial to the place of resting with the deceased has the same function as a cross-tree (Vilkuna 1993: 136). Over time, karsikko became the term for markings
on the stone, the walls of buildings and for the inscription on the wooden board that they nailed to the cross-tree. At sixteen sites in Bosnia and Herzegovina there are also records of the custom of incising the cross on trees at the road crossings were they rested with the deceased. At two locations in Bosnia, geographically close to the Dalmatian hinterland and
the rockier area, there was another form of marking such a place. In Brežnja near Srebrenica they would stop three times and each time they would place a stone under the head of the deceased. In Pale, near Sarajevo, the procession also stopped three times. The deceased is laid on the ground and a stone is placed above his head and under his feet. In Serbia the funeral
procession would also stop three times at intersections. Stopping places were called počivališta (resting place) and there they carved a cross on a tree. In Montenegro, at the site of the Trepča near Nikšić, they were resting three times on the road to the cemetery. In Macedonia, there are also records of stopping at crossings but without defining a locality. At all recorded sites, there is a repeated pattern of constant change of performance and meaning of the ritual  practice. Starting with Sweden, Finland, Estonia, and coming to Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Croatia. The significance of the place also changes, because of
change in everyday life. In Karelia in the 19th century it was no longer important to carve in the three, or to rest on a half way to the cemetery, it was enough to make a mark on the stone in the yard or on the wall of the farm building. In the hinterland of Zadar today (2012.), it is not important to lay down the deceased on the ground (they don`t even carry him out of the
car), but it is important to stop and mark the resting place. The purpose of this study was to demonstrate that there could be a possible link between customs of building of mirila, karsikko and cross-tree relying on almost identical custom that was recorded in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia and its geographical change as one approaches to
the Dalmatian hinterland.  


How to Cite
Katić, M. (2022). Marking the Resting Place with the Deceased. Godišnjak Centra Za balkanološka Ispitivanja, (41), 255–268.